It’s no secret how much Doc Rivers was cherished and beloved in Boston. Doc was popular with the media, loved by the fan base and respected by his players and around the whole league as well. After coaching the Boston Celtics for nine years, he wanted no part in a rebuilding phase.
Doc, who once proudly acclaimed, “I am a Celtic,” betrayed his own loyalty, and decided to call it quits and take his talents out west to coach the Los Angeles Clippers. The day Doc would return to Boston with his new team was well-marked by Celtics fans. The inquiry remained, though, how the fans would react to his return.
Doc Rivers was clearly worried he would get booed. He is the kind of guy that wants to be liked, and Boston isn’t exactly friendly to those who leave. Just think of Johnny Damon. Even Adam Vinateri got booed for crying out loud! However, the Celtics fan base more often gives a warm, hearty welcome to anyone who put on the uniform and won a championship.
The reception for Rivers may have been better than anyone expected. Rivers received not one, but three standing ovations. One when he first walked onto the court, a second during the pre-game announcements and another when a Doc Rivers tribute montage was displayed on the Jumbotron. Rivers also gave the love back. The tears seemed to build up in his eyes, and the love and affection he still has for Boston was evident. It was a great night of remembrance and appreciation for what Rivers did with this team the last decade. Rivers rightfully remains a beloved figure in Boston.
Giving Rivers a great reception can be easily justified. Doc is the third winningest coach in Celtics history with 416 wins. When the Celtics brought Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join Paul Pierce and form the “Big Three,” Doc made it work. He brought a culture of old school basketball to a team of All-Stars with a philosophy of teamwork and tough defense. The bond he formed with Garnett and Pierce is unforgettable. He led that team to a championship in their first year together. Boston could have won two or three more if the circumstances were more favorable.
Despite preaching loyalty while he was here, leaving the Celtics is no reason to be mad at Doc Rivers. With the front office going in a new direction, his heart would not have been in the right place for a rebuild. Now the Celtics have a potentially great, young coach in Brad Stevens, whose heart will be in this team. He and the young players have an opportunity to grow together.
Basically, it is better for this team that Doc moved on, so that it can move forward to a new era. If Doc had left in the middle of the “Big Three Era,” this might be a different story. However, given the circumstances, the Celtics fans gave the recognition and appreciation Doc deserved.